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Whalers furious about PCB, dioxin controversy

12th May 2003

Reports that whale blubber contains excessive levels of PCBs and dioxins have enraged the whole whaling industry. The Norwegian fisheries newspaper Fiskaren reports that many in the whaling community feel the media reports have been planted to damage their activity.

Professor Janneche Utne Skåre, from the National Veterinary Institute, flatly denies that the reports have anything to do with actual whaling, and said they were based on solely on 'scientific analysis'.

Whale products and whale blubber have dropped in public appeal since media reports appeared, which stated that a mere 10 grams of whale blubber carries more PCBs [polychlorobiphenyls] and dioxins to the human body than the EU considers as being a safe weekly intake.

Skåre argued that the Scientific Committee for the Norwegian Food Authority is not passing any judgement on the industry, and that the results were based on exacting scientific analyses conducted by laboratories in Norway and abroad.

“The grounds for our recommendations against using whale blubber as human food is based on a number of analyses conducted through the years,” she said. “The evaluation has been made in line with new directions decided by the EU's criteria for tolerable weekly consumption. The safe levels have also been applied as Norwegian [recommendations].”

According to Skåre, the levels vary depending on the type of whale caught, and its location.

"On average, the analyses show that 10 grams of whale blubber exceeds the tolerable quota for (one person's) weekly consumption. You thereby have an environmental toxin level that speaks for itself. Whale blubber is not suitable for food production."

"It isn't only whale blubber that is harmful to health," she added. "Smoking and alcohol is also a health hazard for people. The same can be said about seagull eggs, that are very sought after by the coastal population at this time of year."

"I'm… not saying people should stop eating whale meat for this reason, but that it is the amount consumed that is decisive. In particular, pregnant women and small children should be extra cautious with regard to consumption of food products that contain PCB and dioxins.”
Skåre also denied that the report on environmental toxins had been timed to coincide with the start of the whaling season today (Monday).